The power of pictures: Vertical picture angles in power pictures

Steffen Giessner, MK Ryan, TW Schubert, Niels van Quaquebeke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)
49 Downloads (Pure)


Conventional wisdom suggests that variations in vertical picture angle cause the subject to appear more powerful when depicted from below and less powerful when depicted from above. However, do the media actually use such associations to represent individual differences in power? We argue that the diverse perspectives of evolutionary, social learning, and embodiment theories all suggest that the association between verticality and power is relatively automatic and should, therefore, be visible in the portrayal of powerful and powerless individuals in the media. Four archival studies (with six samples) provide empirical evidence for this hypothesis and indicate that a salience power context reinforces this effect. In addition, two experimental studies confirm these effects for individuals producing media content. We discuss potential implications of this effect.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-463
Number of pages22
JournalMedia Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011


Dive into the research topics of 'The power of pictures: Vertical picture angles in power pictures'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this